YES, there’s a shopping trolley in the stream. It’s been there at least as long as the lockdown. Probably longer, but I wasn’t paying attention then. It’s not the only thing either. There are discarded juice cans and empty bottles of cheap alcohol in there too. And crisp wrappers and empty cigarette packets and all the normal, everyday detritus that gathers in any open space.

Over in the far corner, between the bowling green wall and the bank of trees that reach up to the canal, the remains of a fireworks cartridge could be seen for weeks – a reminder of nights when teenagers would gather with bottles of Buckfast and the noise of their enjoyment would float up through the night towards our house. It only disappeared after the council grass-cutters carved it up. But, even then, you could still see scraps of it afterwards, broken but defiant against the rain and the blades.

This is my local park. A scrappy little thing sandwiched between the Forth and Clyde canal and the main road in Camelon, Falkirk, squeezed in between new build and the bowling club with its perfect greens. You could walk around it in 10 minutes if you wanted, passing the graffitied walls and now silent playpark. Even at a dawdle, it doesn’t take me much longer.

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I’ve been coming here for my daily – OK, not quite daily – Government-approved exercise since lockdown began. I’ve grown quite fond of it. Admittedly, I have to try to time my visit between the dog walkers. But it’s quieter than the canal towpath that sits 20 or 30ft above it. Up there, you spend most of your time dodging joggers and cyclists and lamenting that towpaths were not really built for social distancing.

No, it’s better down here, where there’s room to stand well aside when someone else does appear.

It’s not that I didn’t know the park before. I’ve walked through it many times. Years ago, I brought my kids here to play on the roundabout and climbing frames. But they’ve now grown up and in recent years walking the canal up to the Falkirk Wheel was a more appealing prospect. There was a cafe at the end of the journey, after all.

But now that option has disappeared and I’m becoming familiar with this space. I don’t even mind the shopping trolley in a way. It goes with the nettles and daisies and ribwort plantain (I can’t for the life of me remember what we called it as kids; not that, I’m pretty sure). There is the sense that this is the opposite of a manicured garden. It doesn’t demand good manners.

It’s been a learning experience, too. Until I started coming here on a regular basis I had never noticed where the stream enters the park. There’s a conduit in the top right corner, one rather too grand for the amount and force of water that flows through it. It was only when I first walked up to that part of the park, away from the path, that I realised that the stream flowed underneath the Forth and Clyde Canal. Water under water, like some kind of hidden liquid Escher puzzle.

I’ve been noticing the changes as spring has settled in. At the beginning of lockdown, the only birds here were pigeons and gulls, the occasional crow. The other week, though, the starlings arrived and took over. Each walk has since been soundtracked by their chittering presence as they bathe, fight and feed. I love their noisy, pugnacious presence, a sign of life in this quiet corner.

I have been noticing more and more. The other evening, I found myself looking closely at dandelion spores. When was the last time I did that? They are incredible things really, a miracle of design sitting on top of the stalk like a little evanescent puff dress, something Alexander McQueen at his most whimsical might have come up with.

The spores are this strangely beautiful, delicate, yet robust delivery system. They have made me remember my teenage love of science fiction. There is something alien about them.

Maybe, it’s that when you get to a certain age, everything becomes a time machine. In this park I find myself thinking about childhood in Northern Ireland. It has the feel of my council estate upbringing in Coleraine in the 1970s; making daisy chains with my sisters, kicking a ball through the “no ball games” sign on the green, exploring the fields on the edge of the estate; an exterior life nurtured with love and the odd Ulster fry.

Or maybe it’s this moment we are now living in; the way it’s twisting our very idea of time passing. Walking in the park I am reminded of those summer afternoons of childhood which yawned and stretched out forever, when that expanse of time meant you found yourself paying close attention to the world around you because you had the time.

That’s what I am doing now, I guess. Paying more attention. Not necessarily understanding, but at least making an effort to understand what I’m seeing.

The rain arrived last weekend. When I walked through late on Sunday afternoon the starlings had gone and the dandelion spores had blown away, seeding the park and lawns and tarmac roads. It was a reminder that even though we are living these small, hemmed-in lives at the moment, life is still going on all around us.